‘Sandwich generation’ more likely to report anxiety or depression, says ONS

Caregivers, specifically those classified in the ‘sandwich generation’, are more likely to report anxiety or depression, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS) out of the UK. The study revealed that the 1.3 million people that are caring for older relatives or children – the sandwich generation – are at a much higher risk of mental health and financial problems than the general population. The study also linked the amount of care that caregivers gave to younger and older relatives simultaneously with increased reported symptoms of mental illness.

Caregivers mental illness

Of people that reported caring for a child or vulnerable relative for more than 20 hours per week, 33% of them reported anxiety or depression. This number falls to 23% when caregiving duties are limited to less than 5 hours per week. Given that women make up 62% of the sandwich generation, they are at a significantly increased risk. These women are primarily between the ages of 35 and 54 years old.

The constant juggling of caregiving duties and employment also has a negative effect on happiness, the data suggested. Of those that work while caregiving, 29% are dissatisfied with life, while only 10% of those doing between zero and four hours of caregiving shared the same opinion.

Helen Walker, the chief executive of Carers UK, said: “There is increasing pressure on this group to juggle work with caring and, as a result, it is one of the most time-poor and stressed generations.

Caregivers at greater risk for mental illness

“As well as impacting on carers’ health and well-being, the strain also takes its toll on their ability to work – more than 2 million people have given up work to care for older or disabled relatives.”

One of the major concerns to the caregivers’ happiness and overall health is their lack of recreation time. Just over one-third of caregivers reported being happy with their amount of leisure time, while that figure is nearly two-thirds for the general population, according to the ONS.

Holly Holder, senior evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Over half a million of these carers describe themselves as ‘just about getting by’ or say they are finding it difficult to manage financially. Two in five of those who are providing care for loved ones in their own homes say that they are unable to work or work as much as they’d like.”

The figures also showed that caring for two generations of dependents is far likelier to limit or stop women from working than men.

“We know that caring responsibilities can significantly impact people’s ability to keep working,” said Holder. “By the year people reach state pension age, nearly half of all people have already stopped working.

“Caring, as well as health problems, are major contributors to this. The government should consider legislating for flexible, paid carers’ leave and give carers a right to return to the same job.”


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